“The Night Watchman” by Richard Zimler was a real surprise treat for me. A big fan of Zimler’s historical fiction I was amazed at how easily Zimler shifted gears into a contemporary crime novel without having to alter his atmospheric, thoughtful and sensitive writing style.
The key to this lies in his careful characterisation of the eccentric and fascinating Chief Inspector Henrique Monroe of the Lisbon Police Department. In a great opening scene our protagonist interviews a suspect and the dialogue gives us a good impression of what to expect.
The actual murder case investigated in the novel is the brutal slaying of a well-connected Portuguese businessman Pedro Coutinho, and this leads into a world of shady political corruption and sexual violence. Monroe gets deeply affected by this and needs to look closer at his own past and childhood back in Colorado.
Zimler has created excellent characters that populate the story and his writing is filled with plenty of sensitive observations, giving us detailed backgrounds for the characters and also a concise picture of present day Portugal and its economic situation. This is a rich and well composed novel that will engage its readers in many different ways.
Richard Zimler was born in Roslyn Heights, a suburb of New York City, in 1956. After earning a bachelor’s degree in comparative religion from Duke University (1977) and a master’s degree in journalism from Stanford University (1982), he worked for eight years as a journalist, mainly in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1990, he moved to Porto, Portugal, and he has taught journalism for the last sixteen years, first at the College of Journalism and now at the University of Porto. Richard has both American and Portuguese nationality. He has published seven novels over the last decade: “The Seventh Gate; “The Search for Sana”; “Guardian of the Dawn”; “Hunting Midnight”; “The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon”; “The Angelic Darkness”; and “Unholy Ghosts.” His novels have appeared on bestseller lists in 12 different countries, including the USA, Great Britain, Portugal, Italy, and Australia. Richard has won numerous prizes for his work, including a 1994 National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Fiction and the 1998 Herodotus Award for the best historical novel. “The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon” was picked as 1998 Book of the Year by three British critics and both “The Search for Sana” and “Hunting Midnight” have been nominated by Portuguese libraries for the Internatinal IMPAC Literary Award. “The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon”, “Hunting Midnight”, “Guardian of the Dawn” and “The Seventh Gate” form the “Sephardic Cycle,” a group of inter-connected – but fully independent – novels about different branches and generations of a Portuguese Jewish family. Richard also writes reviews for the L.A. Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. When he’s not writing, he enjoys gardening at his weekend house in the north of Portugal. –Zimler.com
I can also recommend his books